Our day started snorkeling along the island of North Seymour. We saw schools of fish, turtles and Penguins as they torpedoed past us in search of food. We had fun swimming and watching the underwater world.
After swimming and lunch back on the boat, we set out for our hike through the nesting area of blue footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds. The beach was both sandy and rocky with very dry vegetation. As we walked through the marked path and through the breeding ground, we saw all sorts of species.
There were land iguanas munching on the grass and lava iguanas running past our feet. As we kept walking, we saw blue footed boobies sitting on the ground in the nest they made on their eggs. Their nest or territory was marked by a ring of white bird poop…it was about 5 inches or so thick in a perfect circle. We were so close to them and their babies…but they didn’t seem to mind.
One of the highlights of the islands was watching the magnificent frigate birds in heat. The males have red on their chest and in order to entice the females, they expand their pouches with air…it looks like they are going to pop. Nature is so amazing…
Speaking of amazing…we also got to see two blue-footed boobies court each other as partners. The female walked over to the male with a gift of twigs in her mouth. She waddled over to him and presented the sticks which would probably be for their nest. They were loudly talking to each other as they went through the motions…we thought we were going to see them mate but after waiting for some time, needed to keep walking. See our video on this adorable new couple.
After getting to see the frigate birds with their red airy pouches, land iguanas lazily eating, and blue footed boobies fall in love, we were back on the boat.
We drank some tea, played cards and had our nightly gross dinner before getting to bed.
Imagine sleeping and then waking up to a soft voice over a loud-speaker saying…wake up please…and then the voice proceeds to tell you where the first activity will be for the day. Then she says breakfast will be ready in 30 minutes, and that is followed by a soft relaxing song. Giff and I aren’t exactly chirpy morning people but this was actually a nice way of waking up being it was usually 6AM. After the voice, the music and throwing on clothes…we all went upstairs for breakfast.
The boat docked and we jumped in our panga boats to see the island of Fernandina. It is the western most island of all the Galapagos, as well as the youngest. The last time this volcano erupted was in 2005. As we stepped foot onto the volcanic rock, we saw how beautiful the island was. The sharp black rocks dotted with bright red crabs with the turquoise blue sea as the backdrop was stunning. The terrain of this island was far different from all the others.
As we walked onto the island, we saw so many black dinosaur-like marine iguanas. Not like 10 or 20…more like 100s. It was the largest colony of marine iguanas in the Galapagos. These were marine lizards, they can stay under water and dive down to 65ft for up to an hour! They are the only marine lizards in the world and their species is 10 million years old! They blended right into the black rock…we really had to watch our step as we walked by them. They didn’t seem to mind people, they would kind of watch us with one eye as we stepped around them.
We kept walking further into the island, we saw an area of water between the rocks where one of the pelicans was putting on a show. He would fly hard and fast straight down…crashing into the water. After shaking himself off, he would do it again and again, never coming up with a fish. We all got a kick out of watching him. Nearby was a giant sea turtle who was swimming very close to us, and came up for air just long enough for his picture to be taken.
Next we saw the very rare flightless cormorant bird. It is endemic to the Galapagos and probably can only survive in these islands due to the lack of predators…although they spread their wings to pretend to take flight if threatened.
As we were walking back, we saw a fur seal sunbathing on a rock and a Galapagos hawk soaring in the sky…this place is pure nature. It’s amazing how unaware and unafraid these animals are to the danger of humans.
Back on the boat, we changed into bathing suits, grabbed our wetsuits and jumped into the pangas. Out in the middle of the water, the panga boats stopped and we jumped off the side in our snorkel gear. The water was absolutely freezing even with wetsuits on, but the multiple sea turtles swimming around with us made it worth our while.
Back on the boat and after a warm shower we had lunch and some downtime before our afternoon excursion. We docked on the island of Isabela and took a hike to the top. The vegetation was dry and the sun was hot. We didn’t see too many animals besides a finch here and there. As we walked our guide pointed out some of the various types of the fauna. Once at the top, we looked down on Darwin’s Lake. This view of salty green water stuck inside a crater was beautiful. Evidently this lake is so salty that nothing can live in it…we were reminded of the dead sea in Israel but the guides said no one was allowed to bathe in the water. At the very top we sat on piles of lava rock and looked out at the volcanic craters in the distance.
The hike wasn’t so long on the way back…but we were tired from the long day of wildlife watching and sightseeing. We got back onboard our boat, settled in and sat down for dinner with the captain. The boat was really starting to rock as we were leaving the western islands and getting back to the other side of the equator. Giff’s mom unfortunately started to feel sea-sick. She decided to skip dinner and go to bed early. The rest of us enjoyed talking with the captain and listening to his stories as we pretended to eat the disgusting food. At this point, the food was actually getting worse and worse. We were recognizing the gross meat from 2 nights before in our meal, and the soup again was just plain awful. We were all sipping on tea and chatting after dinner when Giff’s mom came up from our room (which was on the first level of the ship) and said she was really getting sick. She was throwing up and couldn’t stop…Giff asked around and found a motion-sickness patch to give her. She said she “wanted off the boat”…and she “wanted to go home.” Obviously, this wasn’t an option..so Giff took her up to the top deck to get some fresh air for a few minutes while the patch would hopefully kick in. The rest of us decided to get to bed as well. The ship was literally rocking so hard we had to hold onto something as we walked around.
After a bit, Giff and his mom came back downstairs where she finally fell asleep and so did we. Thankfully the patch lasts a few days and we have 2 patches so this shouldn’t happen again…fingers crossed.
Our morning started with a knock on our door…it was Giff’s mom, sister and brother-in-law. They flew from Ohio to join us for a week in the Galapagos. After many hugs and chatting we all went downstairs for breakfast before exploring the city of Quito.
The first thing we noticed was the air…it was much less polluted in comparison to Lima. The cars here seem newer and aren’t giving off that black diesel smoke.
Our first stop of the day was to the center of the world (mitad del mundo). A 40 minute drive took us to the Ecuador museum, latitude 00’00’00. For a few dollars each (the currency of Ecuador has been the US dollar since 2000)… a tour guide walked us around the outdoor museum. He first talked to us about the local indigenous people…the various tribes. He showed us what their typical houses looked like, how they cooked, the foods they ate, etc. He also showed us their ancient tradition of shrinking heads. There was one on display from a child. He explained to us how they would remove the skull from the skin on the face and then heat these heads with hot stones…dehydrating them to the point where the head would shrink. They also sowed the mouth shut so the evil spirit would be trapped into the shrunken head forever. Did I mention the pictured charts with step by step instructions on the proper way to shrink a head from start to finish. Seriously?
The next area was the fun part. They had all kinds of little tricks to show us the strength of the magnetic field at the equator. They had 2 sinks, one on the north and the south side of the red line running down the sidewalk which represented the actual equator. These sinks were no more than 10 feet apart…but when they poured water into the sink on the north side of the equator it twirled one way and when they poured water into the sink on the south side of the equator the water twirled the opposite way. They also had 2 nails standing upright and we took turns taking an egg and placing it on the nail-head. It took some patience, but some of us were able to get the egg to sit on the nail.
After our equator fun, we had our taxi take us to the center of Quito. It was buzzing with people. We noticed the Spanish influenced architecture right away. We strolled through some of the main squares taking pictures. We ducked into one of the churches and were impressed with the rich detail of the interior.
We stopped at a little coffee shop and ordered Ecuadorian coffees and hot chocolate. We looked at the map to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go. After our break, we continued walking the through the streets. There were various vendors selling all sorts of street foods and a big indoor market full of clothes and shoes and electronics. We made our way through the market and then walked uphill towards an absolutely picturesque church, La Basilica. We took several pictures standing outside before heading back to our hotel to get freshened up.
Back at the hotel, we got ready for dinner and then caught a taxi to a restaurant recommended to us by the hotel. Even though the restaurant was only a few blocks away, we were told it was not safe to walk in the dark in this area…which by the way was a main tourist area.
For dinner we ordered the shrimp ceviche which was a signature dish. We have had ceviche before but this one was served with popcorn, huge roasted corn kernels and plantain chips…and for some weird reason…it actually worked. The ceviche was definitely delicious, but the other dishes were nothing to write about.
After dinner we all went back to the hotel to get to bed. Tomorrow we will be on a cruise to the Galapagos!
With bags under our eyes…we got ourselves to the airport first thing in the morning today. The flight to Ecuador was fairly quick, only a couple of hours. When we arrived in Quito, our tour guide was waiting with our name on his sign. We jumped into his car and checked into our Marriott hotel.
We were obviously exhausted from our 4-day Machu Picchu trek, so spent the day in the hotel. We caught up on news and the Internet since we had been detached from the world over the past week. For dinner we munched on appetizers in the lounge of the hotel and then went to bed early.
Tomorrow, Giff’s mom, sister and brother-in-law will be meeting us here. Tomorrow we have the whole day to check out the city of Quito before we board our 8-day cruise to the Galapagos Islands!
Today we headed west to the “ring of Kerry” which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in Ireland. Unfortunately it was a very gray day with plenty of rain and minimal sunshine. We grabbed a flapjack and coffee and drove a few hours to the ring.
The drive lasted many more hours than we planned. The roads were twisty and small and the weather was bad which made us drive even slower. It was all along the coastal edge and formed a circle hence “the ring”. We did stop and get out to take pictures in the rain and enjoy the scenery through the fog. The lakes and mountains were beautiful and as we got into the countryside we noticed how perfectly groomed the country was with stone walls and shrubs separating various properties. Of course many sheep were all over the place which reminded us of Scotland.
After a full day of driving we finally arrived in the town of Dingle. The navigator couldn’t help us once we arrived but the B&B had given very detailed directions and we found our place easily. We checked into the Milestone House (www.milestonedingle.com). The host sat down with me to show a map of the local area and make suggestions for dinner and live music. We freshened up and drove the 2 minutes into town.
The town was located right on the water and was also old-fashioned with its old signs and bright-colored buildings. We found a small restaurant and ordered dinner. Dinner was decent and fresh with an Asian flair…which was different from other Irish food we had up to that point.
After dinner if was pretty late and still raining so we went back to our B&B. We will check out the Dingle area tomorrow hopefully in sunshine.